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Unique Irish Names You’ve Never Heard

“Is fearr Gaeilge briste, ná Béarla cliste.”

The Irish proverb above translates to “broken Irish is better than clever English.” This proverb reflects the sentiment that it is better to try to speak any Irish you know than to speak perfect English and that it is important to learn the language of your people, your country, and your heritage.

Do you have ancestors from Ireland? If so, the Irish language, and therefore Irish names, may be a part of your heritage.

Irish names vary from the exotic to the surprisingly commonplace. Many names that originated in Ireland have also become a part of the cultures that Irish immigrants have joined. Names common in many English-speaking countries can be traced to Ireland; some even alternative or traditional spellings. Even if you aren’t Irish, you may find Irish first names in your own family tree.

Irish Girl Names

The following names are some of the most popular girl names of Irish origin in the United States. Did you know that all of these common names came from Irish?

a little girl with a shamrock headband
  1. Briana
    Meaning: noble
  2. Caitlyn, Kaitlynn
    Meaning: pure 
  3. Cassidy, Kassidy
    Meaning: curly haired
  4. Cathleen, Kathleen
    Meaning: pure
  5. Gael
    Meaning: someone who is Gaelic
  6. Eileen
    Meaning: beautiful bird
  7. Kelly, Kelley
    Meaning: red haired
    Original Irish spelling: Ceallaigh
  8. Keira
    Meaning: dark
  9. Kelsea
    Meaning: island of the ships
  10. Muriel
    Meaning: sea bright
  11. Lynn
    Meaning: from the lake
  12. Nora
    Meaning: honor
  13. Rylie or Riley
    Meaning: from the rye clearing
  14. Shannon
    Meaning: straw worker
    Original Irish spelling: Sionain; the Shannon is also a river in Ireland.
  15. Tara
    Meaning: hillside
a little irish girl sits on a bridge

The following 5 names are the most popular girl names in Ireland in 2019. Not all these are Irish in their origin. But just as Irish names have spread across the globe, Ireland has drawn influence from other cultures. 

  1. Emily
    Origin: English
    Meaning: to excel
  2. Grace
    Origin: Latin
    Meaning: charm
  3. Fiadh (fee-ah)
    Origin: Irish
    Meaning: wild
  4. Sophie
    Origin: French
    Meaning: wisdom
  5. Hannah
    Origin: Hebrew
    Meaning: grace

Irish Boy Names

The following 15 names are some of the most popular boy names with Irish origins in the United States. As with the feminine names above, some of them may surprise you.

A little boy next to an irish top hat. this boy could have an irish name.
  1. Aden
    Meaning: little fire
  2. Braden
    Meaning: salmon
  3. Brian
    Meaning: noble
  4. Casey
    Meaning: vigilant in war
  5. Connor
    Meaning: descendant of hounds, from the old Irish name Conchobhar
  6. Cory
    Meaning: hollow
  7. Devin
    Meaning: descendant of the dark-haired one
  8. Declan
    Meaning: full of goodness, original Irish spelling Deaglán
  9. Duane
    Meaning: little dark one
  10. Fynn
    Meaning: fair
  11. Kieran
    Meaning: dark
  12. Liam
    Meaning: with gilded helmet
  13. Ronon
    Meaning: little seal
  14. Ryan
    Meaning: descendant of the king
  15. Shane, Sean
    Meaning: God is gracious

Of course, the list wouldn’t be complete without the top 5 boy names in Ireland in 2019. Not all these are Irish in origin, but they were the names most chosen by Irish parents in 2019.

  1. Jack
    Origin: English
    Meaning: God is gracious.
  2. James
    Origin: Hebrew
    Meaning: supplanter 
  3. Noah
    Origin: Hebrew
    Meaning: peace
  4. Conor
    Origin: Irish
    Meaning: wolf lover
  5. Daniel
    Origin: Hebrew
    Meaning: God is my judge.

Irish Surnames

You may have noticed that some of these Irish names are also part of common Irish surnames. The “O” found in some Irish surnames simply translates to “of.” So the surname O’Brian means descendant) of Brian. This form is similar to many naming traditions in other countries, such as English surnames like Johnson, or the son of John, and Swedish surnames like Johansdotter, or daughter of Johan.

an irish mom and a little girl laugh together in the leaves.

Irish Name Pronunciation 

Today, English is the most commonly spoken language in Ireland. However, Irish is one of the country’s official languages, and it is still spoken by many people throughout Ireland as well as in parts of the United Kingdom, Canada, and the United States. This beautiful language is a part of Ireland’s heritage and national identity.

While it may seem intimidating at first, Irish pronunciation makes sense if you set aside the pronunciations you know from English. Irish phonetic spelling is more consistent than English letter sounds are; for example, C always has a hard K sound, even when followed by an H. In Irish, a C is never pronounced with a soft S sound. The letter G is never pronounced like a J, but always makes the guttural G sound. 

The only variations in pronunciation come from the vowels nearest the consonants. Vowels are either broad (a, o, u) or slender (e, i). The An Gael magazine, an Irish language magazine, has a helpful pronunciation guide for those who want to learn more about how to read and pronounce Irish words and names.

Here are some examples of Irish names with Irish spellings:

  • Aisling (ash-ling) is a feminine name meaning a vision or dream.
  • Caoimhín (kee-vin) is a masculine name meaning handsome, beautiful, and kind. This name is an alternate spelling of the name Kevin. St. Caoimhín is the patron saint of Ireland.
  • Saoirse (seer-sha) is a feminine name meaning freedom.
  • Sonnagh (sun-ah) is a masculine or feminine name meaning a mound.
  • Tadhg (tayg) is a masculine name meaning a poet or philosopher. Tadhg was number 8 on the 2019 list of popular baby names in Ireland.
  • Taisce (tash-ka) is a masculine or feminine name meaning treasure.

Irish Names in Your Family

Do you have Irish heritage? Do any of your ancestors have Irish names? Even if you aren’t Irish, you may find Irish names in your family tree. Search your tree, and discover more about your own family’s history!

Source: Family Search

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